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3 things we must see from the Cowboys against Chargers in preseason game

With the California part of training camp over and only two preseason games left, it is time for the Cowboys to fine tune some things.

NFL: Dallas Cowboys vs Los Angeles Chargers Joint Practice Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

After a not so great Broncos week, the overall sentiment out of camp is the Dallas Cowboys looked much better against the Los Angeles Chargers in the joint practices. The defense was tough and the offense made plays here and there against a quality opponent as they work through camp battles and injuries. Without question the Cowboys needed to go out there and do just that. They needed to come out of it feeling good about the progress made by their football team.

Head coach Mike McCarthy has stated how important the joint practices are for the starters and established veterans, so the thought is that the work for those players is done for the week and they will not partake on Saturday night. As we head into kickoff at SoFi Stadium, it will be up to the young guys and roster bubble players to continue the good vibes for the week. The Cowboys have roster battles that are still very much in the evaluation phase and jobs very well may or may not be won Saturday night.

Here are three things we must see from the team on Saturday night.

1. Penalty issues must be cleaned up.

DENVER BRONCOS VS DALLAS COWBOYS, NFL Photo by AAron Ontiveroz/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images

Not all penalties are created equal. Ultimately you can live with a guy making an effort penalty. Maybe he gets caught in bad technique in the heat of the play and is unable to recover, those things happen and are expected. What is inexcusable are the mental errors leading to penalties. False starts, offsides, and all pre-snap penalties for that matter are drive killers and often cost teams games. Add the fact the Cowboys were flagged 17 times, it goes without saying that McCarthy and staff need to get a handle on this, and fast. Understanding a lot of these guys out there will not be on the roster and some of these young guys are touching an NFL field for the first time is certainly a factor, but creating a reputation of undisciplined play is a real problem that could haunt this team all season long.

All eyes will be on how the Cowboys respond this week. Improvement is a must but many would argue it needs to be even more than just marginally better, it needs to be substantial. If we want to believe this team has learned from the mistakes of last year, we are going to have to see it firsthand.

2. The Josh Ball question finally answered.

NFL: Dallas Cowboys vs Los Angeles Chargers Joint Practice Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Granted, many people feel like this question has already been answered, however, this has to be the very last chance Ball has to instill any type of confidence that he can be the swing tackle come week one. The Cowboys did themselves no favors on the offensive line and now they are faced with a very real problem. Heading into training camp post draft, Stephen Jones and company felt comfortable with rolling with fifth-round pick Matt Waletzko and Josh Ball duking it out for the right to be the sixth lineman. Many at the time questioned the decision thinking it was not the correct way to handle a pivotal role on this football team. Fast forward to current day, Waletzko gets hurt and looks like he is destined for injured reserve to start the season and Ball has struggled a bit to be nice about it.

As mentioned, the answer to this question in many peoples eyes has been answered already, but if the Cowboys are holding out any type of hope, Ball needs to come out and put together a quality outing against the Chargers. If Ball were to struggle again for the second game in a row, the Cowboys hand may very well be forced to either dive into the free agent market or see what may be available out there for trade. Either way, they have not handled this situation well from the get go and this is all coming to a head at a bad time.

3. Redemption for Kelvin Joseph and Nahshon Wright.

NFL: Dallas Cowboys at Denver Broncos Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Many reports out of camp have spoken very highly of rookie cornerback DaRon Bland out of Fresno State. He has been a pleasant surprise for the Cowboys and may very well find himself with a meaningful role out of the gate for this defense. Much of the same had been said early on about Nahshon Wright and his development heading into year two. All of that stopped when he struggled mightily against the Broncos in preseason game one. The Broncos were 7-for-7 when targeting Wright and it seemed like he never quite had the answer to stop them in coverage all night. As far as Kelvin Joseph goes, its been tough sledding for the former second-round pick. The talent is unquestionably there; when given a chance last year he made the most of it and many were excited for his prospects heading into the season. It has just not worked so far for Joseph and he finds himself in the midst of fighting for his roster life one year removed from being a early-round draft pick.

What’s best for this Cowboys team is to see these two young cornerbacks hungry to change the narrative. Wright needs to come out and show what many had been raving about early in camp. A player that was using his length, his athletic ability, and making it really challenging for these receivers to succeed. Joseph, on the other hand, needs to understand that nothing is given in this league and every day is a fight for your career. Cowboys brass and fans alike hope something clicks and ‘Bossman’ is able to put it all together because this defense has a chance to be special and if Kelvin Joseph is his best self he could be a big part of the reason going forward. There is no question these two are talented with potential to be impact players for the Cowboys for a long time, but the reality in this business is if you aren't going to make the most of your opportunities, there is always someone breathing down your neck looking to do so, like DaRon Bland.

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